WEAK GOVERNMENTS CREATE WEAK REGIONAL COMMUNITIES: THE ROLE OF INTRASTATE CONFLICTS IN IMPEDING REGIONAL INTEGRATION INITIATIVES IN AFRICA

Introduction

In recent history, globalization and regional integration as phenomena have risen in prominence in academic discourses the world over. Across different epistemological landscapes, these phenomena are indispensible in tracing, assessing and explaining processes of interaction between multi-factors. In addition, governance has appeared as a recurring theme for investigating the numerous tracks, institutional backgrounds and outcomes of political and economic decision-making on the local, national and transnational levels. Affordable papers. The marginalisation of Africa in the global economy and failed attempts to industrialize efficiently using import-substitution, gave rise to the notion of regional integration as a means to facilitate structural transformation in Africa. However, the quest for equitable and sustainable development in Africa through Regional Integration initiatives—as envisioned in the 1980 Lagos Plan of Action and subsequent agreements like the Abuja Treaty of 1991—have been underpinned by numerous factors key among them poor governance.

As opposed to the European setting where regional integration was conceived to help avoid a repeat of the carnage witnessed in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Africa’s initial reasons for integrating as championed by Pan-Africanists like Kwame Nkurumah were inspired by the notion that the Berlin Conference had been used to balkanise a continent that was one, and as such a political union would not only give the newly formed independent African states clout in the international system, it would lead to the collapse of the territorial boundaries set by the white man and subsequently the rise of a unified continental nation state of Africa. As ambitious and well intentioned as this idea was, it not only failed to account for the dynamism of factors that would affect the integration process—political, social, economic and cultural diversity of the continent—it also lacked a clear policy framework within which to operationalize the ideas.

The dynamism of factors affecting regional integration on the African continent, tend to act as barriers to the realisation of ambitious integration timelines set by co-operating member states. These factors are usually exacerbated by poor leadership evidenced by institutionalised corruption, incompetence, dictatorial tendencies, crass cronyism and poorly executed national economic programmes among others. The factors, including but not limited to trade, the institutional preconditions of integration-and its effect on growth and development, the law-making and institution-shaping role of international government regimes and non-state actors, shifts in international power asymmetries and the role of emerging economies like the BRICS countries in the field of international development cooperation, have meant that regional integration initiatives on the continent have had to cope with their members’ preoccupations with domestic problems, and sometimes even their very political survival.

Fragility leading to state failure in Africa after the Cold War has mostly been through intra-state conflicts such as the protracted Somali conflict, the on-going unrest in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Intrastate violence is the most common form of conflict today. It describes sustained political violence that takes place between armed groups representing the state, and one or more non-state groups. Violence of this sort usually is confined within the borders of a single state, but usually has significant international dimensions and holds the risk of spilling over into bordering states.[1] Perceived unfairness in allocating power and privilege underlies many African conflicts. Latent or violent armed conflicts – often within rather than between countries – have devastating humanitarian consequences and retard development. War destroys infrastructure, or diverts its use for military purposes. Education and health services suffer. Conflict disrupts normal economic activities and plunders natural resources. African leaders and citizens alike have long blamed their problems on external factors – slavery, colonialism and apartheid, the Cold War, and the unfair structure of international political and economic relations – not without merit. But there has been a growing recognition that how African countries are governed also matters, and that peace and security are critical components of governance that enhance socioeconomic development. (Gruzd, 2007)

This paper argues therefore, that the challenges facing regional integration in Africa have to do with leadership and governance at the state levels and that intra-state conflict is not only the most evident manifestation of leadership failure, it erodes any developmental gains made by the respective country and the immediate surrounding regional integration block as a result of the spill over effect of those countries.

Weak Governments Create Weak Regional Communities

The horn of Africa is one of the most complex and conflict prone regions of the world; a trait that is responsible for gross violations of human rights atrocities and collapse of state infrastructure. In the past 25 years, the region has witnessed the secession of two countries, the collapse of one state and numerous multi-pronged conflicts ranging from disputes over poorly defined borders to civil rivalries over state power-structure. The lack of properly functioning government institutions not only creates disorder, illegality and banditry, it also erodes trust in the state and the rule of law. This threat posed by weak and failed states is aggravated by the globalisation of the localised problem a danger that extends to the regional and subsequently global order. The rise in extreme religious fundamentalism in Somalia has made terrorism a regional problem. As the African Union (AU) recognised regional integration body for the region, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has had to intervene previously as IGADSOM and then as AMISOM to help stem the effects of terrorism which has not only created refugees escaping the Al Shabab, it has also led to the destruction of property and loss of lives and livelihoods of people across the region.

Further, the accession of the strife torn Republic of South Sudan to the East African Community (EAC) creates dynamics that would act to hinder the achievement of the objectives of the community as set out in Article 5(2)[2] of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. After the signing of The Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market on the 20th of November 2009, the subsequent ratification by member states and the coming into force of the said protocol on the 1st of July 2010, the “Four Freedoms”[3] which were envisaged in the creation of the Protocol were supposed to characterise the relations and transactions of integration actors—both state and non-state—throughout the community. Essay help. This would mean a significant boost in trade and investments making the region more productive and prosperous. However, the political instability in South Sudan has sparked labour unrest, runaway inflation and currency instability. This has meant a loss of revenue for businesses like Kenyan banks which were adversely affected by currency devaluation. The Country [South Sudan] is experiencing an economic crisis with a sharp decline in national income and high inflation, which approaches 300%. Moreover, [due to political instability] the value of the South Sudanese Pound dropped by close to 90% since the liberalization of the exchange rates in December 2015, while central bank reserves have dwindled to a few days of import coverage. (International Monetary Fund, 2016) This economic crisis coupled with volatility in currency stability means that it will take longer for South Sudan to achieve price stability and proper management of public finances which are two of the most important criterion for the progress to a monetary union.

Development, Underdevelopment and Marginalization in Africa

Despite the progress made on the continent in entrenching democracy as the way of governance, ensuring civil liberties and spaces are accorded to citizens, allowing the flourishing and development of civil societies and upholding freedom of the press, there is a convincing body of evidence[4] to indicate that governance is not working for the majority of African populations who encounter every day the realities and consequences of ineffective government in their states. (Cubitt, 2014) This leadership failure is clearly manifested in the enormous inequality in resource allocation and development in certain regions of African states and can be attributed to partiality in leadership, whereby some leaders favour some regions over others as opposed to developing the entire country.

Region specific economic and social marginalisation is a common phenomenon in African countries. The  concept  of  ‘marginality’  is  generally  used  to  analyse  socio-economic,  political,  and  cultural  spheres,  where  disadvantaged  people  struggle  to   gain  access  to  resources  and  full  participation  in  social  life. (Gurung & Kollmair, 2005) Marginality affects the infrastructural development of a region in a way that creates underdevelopment. In relation to development, underdevelopment has no clear definition and can only be looked at from a comparative and economic point of view. It is a relative concept whose indicators include low production levels in a country, high unemployment levels and lack of technological advancement. (I. Farah, 2013)

In countries like Kenya and Nigeria economic and social marginalisation has led to intrastate conflicts as evidenced by proliferation small arms that fuels banditry and cattle rustling in Northern Kenya and an insurgency by the various groups including but not limited to the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF), the Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) and Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) in the Niger delta region of Nigeria. The constant conflicts in these two regions—Northern Kenya and Niger Delta—have subsequently had far reaching and multi-faceted effects on the socio-economic and political landscape in the long run. Economically, it has daunted public investment like provision of social amenities and construction of infrastructure and, because public infrastructure has an overall stimulative effect on private investment activity, subsequently, the rippling effect of this occurrence has also deterred private investment activity as well, by pushing up the cost of doing business in these regions among other things. The overall effect of these conflicts is the slowing down of regional integration processes in the micro-region due to the challenge of insecurity.

Averting Containing and Preventing Future Conflicts

The humanitarian crises caused by civil wars in Africa are too large in scope for an adequate and effective continental response. The founding of the AU and the drafting of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine – the basis for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – make this a critical time to reflect on how best to address regional conflicts. (I. Farah, 2013). Further initiatives like the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)—which as an outgrowth of NEPAD is a voluntary African self-monitoring initiative aimed at improving governance and enhancing development—can be useful in applying pressure to leaders on the continent to either be proactive in the aversion of simmering tensions or halting of on-going conflicts. In APRM acceding states, a National Governing Council that involves civil society, business and government, oversees an extensive research and consultation process to develop a self-assessment report evaluating the country’s governance strengths and weaknesses on a wide range of issues, including conflict prevention, election management and human rights. Best essay writing service. The country must design a programme of action to address all identified gaps in governance. Then an independent team of African experts visits the country to do its own assessment, and helps to write a country review report along with a Panel of Eminent Persons and the continental secretariat. This report is eventually debated by participating heads of state and then publicly released. (Gruzd, 2007)

Another novel idea that can be useful in this regard is IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN). CEWARN works to create a network of local leaders, who bear the brunt of conflicts in their communities, by equipping them with knowledge, tools and mechanisms of receiving and sharing information concerning potentially violent conflicts as well as their outbreak and escalation in the IGAD region.

Established as a protocol to utilize early warning and early response to prevent violent conflicts in the Horn of Africa region, CEWARN has gained valuable experience and credibility with officials and peace workers in its areas of operation for supporting local institutions and expanding their capabilities for conflict prevention. Further, it has built a precious body of data and knowledge on violent conflicts along IGAD Member State borders and created the ability to implement on the ground development projects that entrench peace by reducing the incentives for violence conflict.

Conclusion

In order for Africa to attain her full development potential, it is necessary that the region’s leaders take questions of regional integration and security much more seriously, [by] placing them at the forefront of their agendas. (I. Farah, 2013) This can be achieved by not only focusing on political leaders as the main actors in the peace building process as in the case of APRM, but also involving local and grassroots leaders as both a viable and sustainable approach that works as demonstrated by CERWAN.

Further, there is a need of redefining security by shifting from the traditional security paradigm that is primarily state centred and whose primary focus is the safety of states from military aggression; to embracing the concept of human security that is people-centred, comprehensive, context-specific and preventive to help focus attention on current and emerging threats to the security and well-being of individuals and communities.

Finally, African leaders need to foster accountability and be accountable – first to their citizens then the international community. However, this can only be achieved if the current leadership approaches the continent’s problems from a self-critical point of view and questions the negative narrative about Africa – whether it is substantive or not.

 

Bibliography

Cubitt, C. (2014). An Introduction to Governance in Africa . Governance in Africa, 1-9.

Gruzd, S. (2007, 9 1). Peace, security and the African Peer Review Mechanism: Are the tools up to the task? African Security Review, 16(3), 54-66.

Gurung, G. S., & Kollmair, M. (2005). Marginality: Concepts and their Limitations. IP6 Working Paper No. 4.

I. Farah, H. N. (2013). Security, Governance and Regional Integration: Issues in today’s Africa. Development, 321-327.

International Monetary Fund. (2016, June 1). Press Release No. 16/259. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from International Monetary Fund.

McCandless, E., & Karbo, T. (2011). Peace, Conflict, and Development in Africa: A Reader. (E. M. Karbo, Ed.) San José: University for Peace.

 

 

[1] This criterion is adopted by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) based at Uppsala University (Sweden).

[2] The Partner States undertake to establish among themselves and in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, a Customs Union, a Common Market, subsequently a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation in order to strengthen and regulate the industrial, commercial, infrastructural, cultural, social, political and other relations of the Partner States to the end that there shall be accelerated, harmonious and balanced development and sustained expansion of economic activities, the benefit of which shall be equitably shared.

[3]Free Movement of goods, labor, services and capital

[4] Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index 2016